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The prospect of Nigeria’s tourism in a digital economy

According to the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (2000), Nigeria is connected to the rest of the world through international airports and hotels and other franchise…

According to the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (2000), Nigeria is connected to the rest of the world through international airports and hotels and other franchise chains in the country in such places as Kano, Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Calabar, and Bauchi etc. These places have unique tourist attractions such as overland safaris; national parks; game and gorilla viewing; Facility for deep sea recreational fishing; lake and river fishing; archaeological discoveries; beach sites resorts and hotels; water, land and air transportation; surfing and snorkeling; theme parks and exposition centers.

In recent times, the economic fortune of Nigeria has been dwindling as a result of a drastic fall in the price of oil in the world market coupled with the illegal bunkering and the COVID-19 Pandemic. This calls for the need to diversify the economy. Tourism is one sector that can guarantee numerous benefits for a sustainable growth. Nigeria, with its over 250 ethnic groups is endowed with diverse culture which attracts tourism. The country’s economic size, tourism export revenue, domestic and international demand for tourism are important factors that provide a great future prospect for the country’s tourism. Nigeria’s tourism/GDP ratio is low relative to those of major tourism destination countries. Therefore, the potential for optimal tourism development.

There is a significant relationship between tourism and economic growth; the prospect of tourism as a source of income generation, foreign exchange earner and a source of employment confirms that tourism triggers economic growth because tourists’ spending provides foreign exchange earnings and job opportunities. If well harnessed, tourism can serve as a good alternative to oil thereby, bringing an end to Nigeria’s over dependence on oil with the attendant volatility.

Digital technologies and platforms are changing the way the tourism sector operates from end to end. Digital platforms offer global access to consumers and allow service providers to enhance the development of the tourism sector and its competitive standards.  Many low-income economies can potentially benefit from this digital transformation and others are at risk of being left behind if they fail to embrace this moment.

In 2017, international tourist arrivals reached a new record high at over 1.3 billion according to the latest UNWTO Tourism Highlights. The sector has now seen uninterrupted growth in arrivals for eight straight years. It also represents 10.4 per cent of GDP and in 2018, tourism had, globally, accounted for more than seven per cent of the world trade and about 330 million jobs worldwide.

Tourism is a monopolistically competitive industry. It has many relatively small enterprises producing slightly differentiated products and services. Tourism is an information-intensive industry with a quite long value chain.

The World Bank Group recently published two reports on the significance of this disruption on tourism and how countries can harness it for the benefit of all. According to the report, Tourism and the Sharing Economy, the annual growth rate for the global P2P accommodation is estimated at 31 per cent between 2013 and 2025, six times the growth rate of traditional bed and breakfasts and hostels. In addition, the second report, The Voice of Travelers, produced in collaboration with TripAdvisor, explains how peer reviews and other forms of user-generated content (UGC), facilitated by digital platforms, have become the most important sources of travel information globally—more important than tourism boards and traditional outlets.

Travel and tourism are now the largest generators of jobs, accounting for about 11 per cent of the global workforce. The economic impact of tourism is aptly demonstrated by its relative contribution to GDP, foreign exchange earnings and employment opportunities. Where tourism is well integrated into the tourism   economy, the job creation prospects are good.

International tourism is as of today making use of yet another digital breakthrough, namely the virtual reality. Virtual reality is used mostly in advertising of tourist products as well as in guided tours, for education and recreational purposes and the development of social tourism. The future of virtual tourism depends on the improvement of technical capacity for designing virtual tours, creating content for them etc. The virtualisation is expanding being a new effective technology that affects all spheres of the human society. It is vital to take into account that the number of virtual reality (VR) users are rapidly growing. According to experts’ forecasts, “in two years the number of active VR users will reach 171 million people, and by 2020 the market will grow to 700 million”.

The world has entered the informational age with the emergence of a digital economy being its primary trend. The number of world economy industries not affected by digital transformation is continuously decreasing.  International tourism is at the forefront of these processes. The internet dependence of the tourism market is growing and the tourism digitalisation process is quite fast. The introduction of digital technologies leads to the change of roles in the tourism industry with new forms and contents; the development of global booking and reservation networks, the emergence of electronic marketing and management as well as the design of virtual tourist trips.

Making ICT and e-development strategies an integral part of policy planning is now essential in order to support the necessary human and physical infrastructure and to introduce and adopt measures to ensure equitable access and widespread capability to make maximum use of ICT’s. Also, the concept of digital economy in the Tourism industry is noble and aimed at improving the industry for greater GDP growth.

Salient issues and negative challenges of e-commerce using the internet must be addressed and sufficiently dealt with before positive development can be realised. Due regard to issues or security and trust, infrastructure and marketing will be very crucial to the success of tourism in digital economy for the development of the Nigerian State.

Yakubu Adamu is a staff member of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation